LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Church Readings on the Third Sunday of Great Lent: Sunday of
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 8,40-56.
Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying. As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her haemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’ While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.’ When Jesus heard this, he replied, ‘Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.’ When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, ‘Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called out, ‘Child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from
miscellaneous sources For March 16/14
Hezbollah's thirst for revenge will not end/By: Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/March 16/14
After three calamitous years; whither Syria/BY: Hisham Melhem/Arabiya/March 16/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 16/14
Lebanese Related News
Miscellaneous Reports And News'
Haemorrhaging Women: Faith & Hope
By: Elias Bejjani*
(John 6:68): “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life"
Whenever we are in real trouble encountering devastating and harsh conditions either physically or materially, we unconsciously react with sadness, anger, confusion, helplessness and feel abandoned. When in a big mess, we expect our family members and friends to automatically run to our rescue. But in the majority of such difficult situations, we discover with great disappointment that in reality our heartfelt expectations do not unfold as we wish.
What is frustrating and shocking is that very few of our family members and friends would stand beside us during hardships and endeavour to genuinely offer the needed help. Those who have already walked through these rocky life paths and adversities definitely know very well the bitter taste of disappointment. They know exactly the real meaning of the well-know saying, "a friend in need is a friend indeed".
Sadly our weak human nature is driven by inborn instincts that often make us side with the rich, powerful, healthy and strong over the poor, weak, needy and sick. Those who have no faith in Almighty God find it very difficult to cope in a real mess.
Meanwhile, those whose faith is solid stand up with courage, refuse to give up hope, and call on their Almighty Father for help through praying and worshiping. They know for sure that our Great Father is loving and passionate. He will not abandon any one of us when calling on Him for mercy and help because He said and promised so. Matthew 11/28-30: "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
One might ask, 'Why should I pray?' And, 'Do I have to ask God for help; can't He help me without praying to Him?' The answer is 'no'. We need to pray and when we do so with faith and confidence God listens and responds (Mark 11/:24): "Therefore I tell you, all things whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received them, and you shall have them"
Yes, we have to make the effort and be adamant and persistent. We have to ask and knock in a bid to show our mere submission to Him and He with no doubt shall provide. (Matthew 7/7 & 8): "Ask and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened".
On this second Sunday of Lent in our Catholic Church's Eastern Maronite rite, we cite and recall the miraculous cure of the bleeding woman in Matthew 9/20-22, Mark 5/25-34, and Luke 8/43-48. As we learn from the Holy Gospel, the bleeding woman's great faith made her believe without a shred of doubt that her twelve years of chronic bleeding would stop immediately if she touched Jesus' garment. She knew deeply in her heart that Jesus would cure her even without asking him. Her faith cured the bleeding and made her well. Her prayers were heard and responded to.
Luke 8/:43-49: "A woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her living on physicians, and could not be healed by any, came behind him (Jesus), and touched the fringe of his cloak, and immediately the flow of her blood stopped. Jesus said, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes press and jostle you, and you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 8:46 But Jesus said, “Someone did touch me, for I perceived that power has gone out of me.” When the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared to him in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. He said to her, “Daughter, cheer up. Your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
The woman's faith cured her chronic bleeding and put her back in the society as a normal and acceptable citizen. During that era women with uterus bleeding were looked upon as sinners, defiled and totally banned from entering synagogues for praying. Meanwhile, because of her sickness she was physically unable to be a mother and bear children. Sadly she was socially and religiously abandoned, humiliated and alienated. But her faith and hope empowered her with the needed strength and perseverance and enabled her to cope successfully against all odds.
Hallelujah! Faith can do miracles. Yes indeed. (Luke17/5 & 6): " The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would tell this sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you". How badly do we today need to have a faith like that of this women?
Let us all on this second Lent Sunday pray with solid faith.
Let us ask Almighty God who cured the bleeding women, and who was crucified on the cross to absolve our original sin, that He would endow His Holy graces of peace, tranquility, and love all over the world. And that He would strengthen the faith, patience and hope of all those persecuted, imprisoned, and deprived for courageously witnessing the Gospel's message and truth.
Question: "What is the definition of sin?"
GotQuestions.org/Answer: Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). Sin had its beginning with Lucifer, probably the most beautiful and powerful of the angels. Not content with his position, he desired to be higher than God, and that was his downfall, the beginning of sin (Isaiah 14:12-15). Renamed Satan, he brought sin to the human race in the Garden of Eden, where he tempted Adam and Eve with the same enticement, “you shall be like God.” Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and against His command. Since that time, sin has been passed down through all the generations of mankind and we, Adam’s descendants, have inherited sin from him. Romans 5:12 tells us that through Adam sin entered the world, and so death was passed on to all men because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Through Adam, the inherent inclination to sin entered the human race, and human beings became sinners by nature. When Adam sinned, his inner nature was transformed by his sin of rebellion, bringing to him spiritual death and depravity which would be passed on to all who came after him. We are sinners not because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners. This passed-on depravity is known as inherited sin. Just as we inherit physical characteristics from our parents, we inherit our sinful natures from Adam. King David lamented this condition of fallen human nature in Psalm 51:5: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
Another type of sin is known as imputed sin. Used in both financial and legal settings, the Greek word translated “imputed” means “to take something that belongs to someone and credit it to another’s account.” Before the Law of Moses was given, sin was not imputed to man, although men were still sinners because of inherited sin. After the Law was given, sins committed in violation of the Law were imputed (accounted) to them (Romans 5:13). Even before transgressions of the law were imputed to men, the ultimate penalty for sin (death) continued to reign (Romans 5:14). All humans, from Adam to Moses, were subject to death, not because of their sinful acts against the Mosaic Law (which they did not have), but because of their own inherited sinful nature. After Moses, humans were subject to death both because of inherited sin from Adam and imputed sin from violating the laws of God.
God used the principle of imputation to benefit mankind when He imputed the sin of believers to the account of Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for that sin—death—on the cross. Imputing our sin to Jesus, God treated Him as if He were a sinner, though He was not, and had Him die for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2). It is important to understand that sin was imputed to Him, but He did not inherit it from Adam. He bore the penalty for sin, but He never became a sinner. His pure and perfect nature was untouched by sin. He was treated as though He were guilty of all the sins ever committed by the human race, even though He committed none. In exchange, God imputed the righteousness of Christ to believers and credited our accounts with His righteousness, just as He had credited our sins to Christ’s account (2 Corinthians 5:21).
A third type of sin is personal sin, that which is committed every day by every human being. Because we have inherited a sin nature from Adam, we commit individual, personal sins, everything from seemingly innocent untruths to murder. Those who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ must pay the penalty for these personal sins, as well as inherited and imputed sin. However, believers have been freed from the eternal penalty of sin—hell and spiritual death—but now we also have the power to resist sinning. Now we can choose whether or not to commit personal sins because we have the power to resist sin through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, sanctifying and convicting us of our sins when we do commit them (Romans 8:9-11). Once we confess our personal sins to God and ask forgiveness for them, we are restored to perfect fellowship and communion with Him. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
We are all three times condemned due to inherited sin, imputed sin, and personal sin. The only just penalty for this sin is death (Romans 6:23), not just physical death but eternal death (Revelation 20:11-15). Thankfully, inherited sin, imputed sin, and personal sin have all been crucified on the cross of Jesus, and now by faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Recommended Resources: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie and Logos Bible Software.
Renewed clashes in Tripoli kill 9,
March 15, 2014/By Antoine Amrieh/The Daily StarTRIPOLI: Renewed clashes between rival neighborhoods in the northern city of Tripoli Saturday raised the death toll to nine as dozens of families to fled to safer areas.
After a brief lull in the morning, sniper and mortal fire picked up again between Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. Mortars struck several homes along Syria Street, which separates the warring factions, prompting dozens of families to flee their homes for safer areas of the city. The Army blocked the highway linking Tripoli to the northern region due to intensive sniper fire as soldiers continued to respond to sources of gunfire. Soldiers also blocked the Talaat al-Omari road and Al-Biqar-al-Jabal Street with barbed wire. Schools and universities remained closed, with a few shops in unaffected areas remaining open. Armored vehicles were seen patrolling the deserted city streets. Fighting erupted Thursday following the fatal shooting of Jabal Mohsen resident Walid Barhoum. Among those killed in clashes was a 10-year-old girl. Militants from Bab al-Tabbaneh, a predominantly-Sunni neighborhood known for its support for the armed Syrian opposition, have engaged in multiple rounds of fighting with Alawite fighters from Jabal Mohsen, which enjoys strong links to the Syrian regime.
The three-day clashes mark the 20th round of fighting in Tripoli since the uprising against Assad began in March of 2011. Earlier in the day, a man identified as Abdullah Keserwani was shot by a sniper and killed while passing under the Malloula Bridge, a security sources told The Daily Star. Several others died from their wounds, raising the death toll to nine with some 60 others wounded. Amid heavy gunfire family and friends of Keserwani carried his body, wrapped in white, through the city for the burial procession.
Lebanon: Policy statement allows citizens to resist Israel
Reuters/Published: 03.15.14, 08:19 / Ynetnews
Declaration is compromise between Hezbollah, seeking to
guarantee right to fight Israel and maintain weapons arsenal, and Sunni-led
opponents seeking to emphasize state's role in carrying arms.
Lebanon's new government agreed to a compromise policy statement on Friday that fell short of explicitly enshrining the militant group Hezbollah's role in confronting Israel but which would give all citizens the right to resist Israeli occupation or attacks. The agreement on the compromise language came after weeks of dispute brought the government to the verge of collapse, and now paves the way for Prime Minister Tammam Salam to put his government to a vote of confidence. Information Minister Ramzi Jreij told reporters that most ministers had agreed on a compromise statement that declares Lebanese citizens have the right to "resist Israeli occupation" and repel any Israeli attack. The deal was reached a few hours after Israel's army said it fired tank rounds and artillery into southern Lebanon in retaliation for a bomb that targeted its soldiers patrolling the border. No injuries were reported on either side.
The Israel-Lebanon border has been mostly quiet since Israel and Hezbollah fought an inconclusive war in 2006, but Israeli forces still hold at least three pockets of occupied territory which are claimed by Lebanon.
"Based on the state's responsibility to preserve Lebanon's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and the security of its citizens, the government affirms the duty of the state and its efforts to liberate the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba Hills and the Lebanese part of Ghajar through all legitimate means," the government statement said. It also "affirms the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation and repel aggressions and recover occupied territory".Agreement on the declaration paves the way for Salam to put his government to a vote of confidence, almost exactly a year after he was first asked to try to put together a cabinet following the resignation of his predecessor, Najib Mikati. The declaration reflected a compromise between the Hezbollah-led political coalition, which sought to guarantee Shiite Hezbollah's right to fight Israel and to justify maintaining its huge weapons arsenal, with Sunni-led political opponents who sought to emphasize the role of the state in carrying arms. Tensions between Hezbollah and its Sunni opponents inside Lebanon have been sharply heightened by the civil war in neighboring Syria, where Hezbollah fighters have been battling alongside President Bashar Assad's forces against Sunni rebels who are backed by many Lebanese Sunnis. Jreij said some ministers expressed reservations because the statement failed to spell out Lebanese state control over the military conflict with Israel and because it refers to "resistance", Hezbollah's label for its military operations. A functioning Lebanese government would finally be in a position to pursue an offshore oil and gas exploration license round that was delayed for months by the political deadlock. Salam has also said he hoped the emergence of the new government will allow Lebanon to hold presidential elections before President Michel Suleiman's mandate expires in May and also hold parliamentary polls that were postponed last year due to the political impasse. Lebanon, still struggling to recover from its own 1975-1990 civil war, has found its internal divisions worsened by the conflict in Syria, whose sectarian divisions mirror its own. Sectarian violence has erupted sporadically in the past year, particularly in the north, and car bombings targeting both security and political targets have increased dramatically, with Hezbollah-dominated areas being the most frequent target. Security sources said on Friday the death toll after two days of fighting in the northern city of Tripoli between Sunni Muslims and minority Alawites – the same sect as Syrian President Bashar Assad – had risen to five.
Hariri: Policy Statement Proves
'Army-People-Resistance' Formula is No More
Naharnet/Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri noted on Saturday that the government policy statement that was drafted on Friday does not grant one party or power authority over that of the state.
He said in a statement: “Several interpretations can be made over the policy statement, but one central truth is clear and that is there can be no return to the 'army-people-resistance' equation.”“The policy statement does not allow any side to resort to arms outside of the authority of the state, its army and security institutions,” he remarked. The policy statement also prevents Lebanon from getting involved in foreign wars.
“There can be no room for doubt that the resistance's weapons is an issue of contention that will be discussed at the national dialogue by the new president,” Hariri stressed.
In addition, he noted: “Today marks the third anniversary of the eruption of the Syrian uprising against the tyrant Bashar Assad.”“This is an occasion for us to renew our call on Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria and avoid policies that only bring about division and destruction to the Lebanese people,” he stated. The policy statement was approved late on Friday night after arduous talks between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over the contentious issue of the resistance and the role of the state in confronting Israel. The three ministers of the Phalange Party and Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi voiced reservations however over the clause related to resistance against Israel. "By the virtue of the state's responsibility to preserve Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the government stresses the state's duty and efforts to liberate the Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba Hills and the occupied part of Ghajar (village) through all legitimate means, while stressing the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation, repel its aggressions and regain the occupied land," the policy statement read. Speaker Nabih Berri called parliament to convene on March 19 and 20 to discuss the statement and later subject cabinet to a vote of confidence.
Berri Calls Parliament to Convene on
March 19, 20 to Discuss Policy Statement
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri called on Saturday parliament to convene next week in order to discuss the government policy statement, reported Voice of Lebanon radio.
It said that he called parliament to meet at 10:30 a.m. on March 19 and 20. The cabinet will be subject to a vote of confidence after the policy statement discussions are complete, it added. The statement was approved late on Friday night after arduous talks between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over the contentious issue of the resistance and the role of the state in confronting Israel. The three ministers of the Phalange Party and Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi voiced reservations however over the clause related to resistance against Israel. "By the virtue of the state's responsibility to preserve Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the government stresses the state's duty and efforts to liberate the Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba Hills and the occupied part of Ghajar (village) through all legitimate means, while stressing the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation, repel its aggressions and regain the occupied land," the policy statement read.
Suleiman: Phalange's Reservation on
Policy Statement Stems from its Keenness on the State
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman said on Saturday that he understood the reasons why the Phalange Party expressed its reservation over the resistance clause in the newly-drafted government policy statement.
He said: “The party's reservation stems from its keenness on the state.”He made his remarks before a delegation of students from the Phalange Party at the Baabda Palace. “The Phalange Party took such a position out of its historic role in maintaining Lebanon's independence, defending its sovereignty, and supporting the presidency,” continued Suleiman. The president called on the party “to maintain its national responsibility at cabinet and the national dialogue because it is necessary for cooperation” among the political powers. He encouraged it to assert the authority of the state in all matters and in devising a national defense strategy. The policy statement was approved late on Friday night after arduous talks between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over the contentious issue of the resistance and the role of the state in confronting Israel. The three ministers of the Phalange Party and Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi voiced reservations however over the clause related to resistance against Israel. "By the virtue of the state's responsibility to preserve Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the government stresses the state's duty and efforts to liberate the Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba Hills and the occupied part of Ghajar (village) through all legitimate means, while stressing the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation, repel its aggressions and regain the occupied land," the policy statement read. Speaker Nabih Berri called parliament to convene on March 19 and 20 to discuss the statement and later subject cabinet to a vote of confidence.
Suleiman Hopes to Resume Dialogue
before his Term's End: Baabda Declaration Key to Solving Disputes
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman stressed that he will call for the resumption of the national dialogue after the government earns parliament's vote of confidence, while emphasizing the importance of the Baabda Declaration in protecting Lebanon, reported the Kuwaiti daily al-Anba on Saturday. He told the daily: “Adhering to the Declaration is key to resolving disputes in Lebanon.” “The Baabda Declaration allows Lebanese forces meddling in Syria to return to Lebanon,” he added. “This will help us reunite to thwart the suicide attacks,” he continued. Moreover, the proper adoption of the Declaration will allow the army to defend Lebanon's borders and prevent any attack against the country, said the president. Suleiman stressed the need for Lebanese powers to refrain from intervening in the crisis in Syria and to avoid transforming the Syrian people into a “political target”.
The Taef accord speaks of “special” ties with Syria and “we should not increase tensions with it,” he urged. “We support all of the Syrian people and not one side without the other,” he stated, warning that fueling tensions with them is “dangerous.” He wondered at the March 8 camp's rejection of the Baabda Declaration after it was unanimously adopted during a June 2012 national dialogue session. “We understand that circumstances force changes in position in politics, but we have witnessed defamation over the Declaration and what the presidency achieved,” lamented Suleiman. “My conscience won't be clear until I invite the political powers to return to the national dialogue. I hope one or two sessions would be held before the end of my term” in May, he remarked. “The discussions over a national defense strategy will fortify Lebanon, its land, army, and resistance,” he stressed.
“The resistance is in need of a strategy that adheres to the state,” he explained. “There exists no state that says that it will not intervene to defend my people,” he added.
“All forms of security chaos harm the state,” continued Suleiman. In addition, he said that the “army-people-resistance” equation, which is backed by the March 8 camp, was no longer viable after the resistance, Hizbullah, became involved in the Syrian crisis. “The people and army were not consulted over going to Syria and whether they will tolerate the consequences of this action,” he noted. “We must therefore resort to a formula that helps fortify Lebanon through agreeing on a defense strategy at the national dialogue,” Suleiman stressed. Asked whether he is seeking to extend his term as president, he replied: “It is not certain whether the extension will serve Lebanese interests.” “Political powers will be more forgiving of a new president, but prominent divisions may be felt around one whose term was extended,” he remarked. “Based on this, I believe that it is best to respect the constitution and I have said that the extension is unconstitutional,” Suleiman stated. “I prefer that the presidential elections be held and I invite the representatives of fraternal and friendly countries to come to Lebanon to witness the handover ceremony,” he said.
3 More Killed in Tripoli Fighting as
Night Clashes Intensify
Naharnet/Three people were killed on Saturday in the latest round of clashes between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen in the northern city of Tripoli, reported the National News Agency.
The fighting had eased on Saturday morning as intermittent gunshots could be heard in the city but it intensified at night in most of the hotspots. NNA warned that snipers were targeting any movement, especially on the international highway that connects Tripoli to Akkar. Traffic came to a halt in the city and classes at schools and universities were suspended. Shops located far from the areas witnessing clashes opened their doors to business.
State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr ordered the armed forces to reveal the identifies of those involved the fighting and arrest them. Overnight, heavy fighting was witnessed throughout the areas of tension.
Machineguns and B7 and B10 rocket-propelled grenades were used in the clashes. The random firing against houses forced residents to flee the area, added NNA. The army had opened fire at the sources of the shooting in Bab al-Tabbaneh. Eleven people have been killed and 50 wounded since the fighting erupted on Thursday. Clashes between Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen had increased in frequency since the break out of the uprising in Syria in March 2011. The Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood backs the revolt, while residents in Jabal Mohsen support the Syrian regime.
One dead, three hurt as Syria rockets hit Lebanon
Abrabiya/One person was killed and three wounded on Saturday in eastern Lebanon by rockets fired from neighbouring Syria, a security source told AFP. Four rockets hit the Nabi Uthman and Labweh areas, both of which are sympathetic to the Shiite Hezbollah movement, the source said. One person was killed and a second injured in Nabi Uthman, and two were wounded in Labweh. Hezbollah is a staunch ally of the Syrian regime and has dispatched fighters to help it battle the Sunni-dominated uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. It is reportedly playing a key role in helping regime troops trying to recapture the rebel stronghold of Yabrud in Syria near the Lebanese border. Sunni extremist groups have targeted Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in recent months with rocket and bomb attacks.
Hezbollah's thirst for revenge will
By: Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/03.15.14/Israel Opinion
Analysis: Recent explosive targeted at IDF soldiers is part of ongoing revenge for attacking of Hezbollah-bound weapons convoy. The system: An eye for an eye against military targets only.
It is almost certain that Hezbollah these days is attempting to fulfill its obligation to avenge and retaliate the bombing of a strategic weapons convoy, which was on its way to reach it three weeks ago.
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Hezbollah, and Lebanese and global media, attributed the attack to the Israeli Air Force, which allegedly hit a convoy leading ballistic missiles, apparently 700-kilometer-range Scud D, to the Lebanon Valley, to Hezbollah's storage and launching site. The terror organization already has such missiles, and this was supposed to be a "Syrian gift" to reinforce the already-existing heavy and strategic weapons.
It is obvious that Hezbollah could not have ignored this action this time. Firstly, because the operation attributed to Israel was carried out on both sides of the border – from within Syrian and Lebanese territories – and mainly because it had witnesses reporting about it to Arab media outlets such as Al-Arabiya. In addition, there is a publication noting that Israeli security officials have confirmed to Time Magazine that the operation was indeed carried out by Israel.
In light of these facts, Hezbollah could not have turned a blind eye, and announced officially that it will take its revenge, and the announcement was made both through its media outlets and by Lebanese politicians pertaining to the organization. Since then, Hezbollah is trying to carry out actions with very obvious characteristics: First – attempt to harm IDF soldiers but not Israeli citizens, and the second – cause damage that would not bring about fierce response by the IDF, which may require Hezbollah to reignite the region.
At present time – when Hezbollah is entangled in Lebanon and Iran is negotiating with the world on its nuclear program – Iran has a clear interest in having Hezbollah maintain its arms, its missiles and rockets, set and ready for action when needed. The Iranians don't want Hezbollah wasting its sophisticated missiles and rockets arsenal on a local matter of Syria and Hezbollah, but rather keep it in case Iran becomes involved.
Another characteristic of Hezbollah's strategy is the repeated attempts to attack until the desired result is achieved. At first, they tried to fire rockets towards a Mount Hermon outpost, and afterwards Hezbollah militants were spotted attempting to place explosives on the Syrian side of the Golan border in order to attempt hitting an Israeli patrol. No injuries were reported in the events.
During this period, another attack attempt or two were documented, and on Friday there was another explosive in Har Dov. It can be speculated that this event – which caused a somewhat routine response by IDF – would be considered a failure in the eyes of Hezbollah, and thus they will continue to try over and over again until they reach an outcome. Even these future attempts are likely to be aimed at military targets. Why? Because the alleged Israeli strike against the weapons convoy was aimed at a military target of Hezbollah.
The terrorist organization has already responded with the same strategy to the assassination of Imad Mughniyah, which was also attributed to Israel. He was considered the organization's chief of staff, however Hezbollah saw him as a citizen, thus repeated attempts to attack Israeli civilian targets around the world were carried out. They failed one after the other for eight years – until the deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria's Burgas. The killing of Israeli citizens as revenge for the killing of Mughniyah satisfied Hezbollah's need for revenge, which was aided by its Iranian operations in Quds Force.
This time it's not citizens, but a matter between armies – the IDF and Hezbollah's military force. Therefore the terrorist organization will keep trying until reaching an outcome, meaning it will spill the blood of at least one Israeli soldier. This is how the "logic" works for the Beirut wing, which is also trying to not enter a confrontation with Israel. The entanglement in Syria is preoccupying the organization and its resources, as well as its Iranian patrons. But for Israel, it is important to know and understand the Friday's event is a failure in Hezbollah terms and they will keep trying – and perhaps are even doing so right now.
Lebanese Forces supporters frustrated by FPM-Future detente
March 15, 2014/By Wadih El Hayek The Daily Star
BEIRUT: In the post-Civil War era, when their leaders faced systematic persecution, a deep feeling of frustration and despair plagued Lebanon’s Christian community.
It was not until the 2005 withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon that many Christians breathed a sigh of relief. In May of that crucial year, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun returned after a 15-year forced exile in Paris. During the same year, Parliament passed an amnesty law allowing the release of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, who had been held in solitary confinement for 11 years in an underground cell of the Defense Ministry complex in Yarze.
Nine years on, however, frustration is once again surfacing among the Christian ranks. This is especially true for LF supporters in light of the recently established friendship between long-term ally the Future Movement and sworn rival the FPM ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
“We have been betrayed by our own allies, but this isn’t new and it won’t affect us,” said Joseph Saliba, an LF supporter from the Kesrouan coastal town of Tabarja.
Just before the parliamentary elections of 2005, Aoun – who has long nurtured a dream of becoming president – put an end to his alliance with March 14 after some of the coalition’s key members, such as the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist party, forged an ultimately brief union with the pro-Syria Amal Movement and Hezbollah.
Aoun’s departure from the March 14 coalition, followed by the memorandum of understanding he signed with Hezbollah in 2006, widened the FPM-Future schism and helped reinforce the alliance between former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s party and the LF, March 14’s strongest Christian group.
But now, with the much-coveted presidential post coming up for election, reports have emerged that relations have warmed between the Future Movement and the FPM.
Last month, Aoun confirmed in a Facebook post that he met with Hariri in Paris in January, while reports said Aoun’s close aide and son-in-law Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil had also held talks with Hariri in Riyadh in February.
Unconfirmed media reports say that the Future-FPM detente is part of a larger deal that will see Aoun become president and Hariri prime minister for a second term.
A high-ranking LF official and former fighter delivered an unembellished interpretation of recent political developments and their impact on the LF and its supporters.
He claimed that the leadership of the LF was “even more skeptical than the popular base.”
“Frustration and extreme suspicion dominate the Christian street today,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of recrimination.
“But we have long been within the ranks of the opposition,” he added. “This position does not intimidate or discourage us.”
Saliba, 35, said the LF bases expected a surprise from the Kataeb Party, which has long competed with the party for Christian dominance within the March 14 coalition.
“Usually, it was the Kataeb who never miss a chance to accede to power. But this time the surprise came from the Future Movement,” Saliba said.
“The Future Movement is mistaken. ... [They] should return some of the sacrifices that the Lebanese Forces have made for the general good of March 14.”
The rift within the components of the March 14 alliance widened after the Future Movement and the Kataeb party put aside their previous objections and agreed to take part in a national unity government with Hezbollah, despite the party’s ongoing involvement in Syria.
Geagea, meanwhile, stood firm on his demand that Hezbollah withdraw from Syria first and refused to participate in Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government.
According to Vera Bou Monsef, an analyst at the Lebanese Forces website, the party’s supporters were surprised by the recent political developments. But she argued that talk about depression within the community was “inaccurate,” adding that both LF partisans and supporters trusted Geagea’s foresight.
“The LF made the right choice and [all the bickering] happening now within the government is proof of that,” Bou Monsef said, referring to weeks of disagreements between ministers over the Cabinet’s policy statement and the clause related to the resistance’s role and prerogatives.
But despite the LF stance on the government, sources from the party denied media reports that Geagea threatened to withdraw from the coalition if the March 14 ministers in Salam’s government approved a policy statement legitimizing Hezbollah’s arsenal.
Bou Monsef argued that President Michel Sleiman’s term, which expires on May 25, had given Christians “an unusually large dose of hope.”
“However, unfortunately, Christians are not united on the principles of integrity and patriotism,” Bou Monsef added.
Elie Abou Jaoude, a jeweler from the Beirut eastern suburb of Sin al-Fil, said many Christians felt their allies did not entirely share their “national and patriotic aspirations.”
“Having spearheaded the fight for Lebanon’s first independence, Christian expectations are high, and their idealism a bit unrealistic,” he said.
Abou Jaoude recalled that the LF had a long history of turning down opportunities to take part in governments when offers did not fulfill their national aspirations.
“The same cannot be said about the FPM and its leader Michel Aoun, who has seized every chance to get one minister or more in every government formed since his return from exile.”
According to the high-ranking LF official, the Lebanese political landscape has never been static or set in stone.
“Even the Constitution can be reformed and interpreted to suit the interests of whoever is in power,” the official said.
He maintained that the only way to soothe Christian frustration was to elect a “strong president.”
“The country needs a powerful president who can create real balance with the Sunni and Shiite leadership,” he said. “This new president can be Geagea, [Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman] Franjieh or even Aoun.”
But Bou Monsef seemed confident that frustrations would soon ease due to the faith of the LF officials and supporters have in the Geagea leadership.
“I consider Geagea to be an official of rare qualities,” she noted. “We have full confidence in him because time has proven his choices to be the right ones.”
March 14 marks anniversary, urges
Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria
March 15, 2014/By Dana Khraiche, Kareem Shaheen/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: March 14’s leaders urged Hezbollah once again to withdraw from the Syrian conflict and called for unity among the bloc’s ranks in the coming presidential election, in a ceremony marking the ninth anniversary of the “Cedar Revolution.”The renewed challenge to Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria and calls for the state’s supremacy in resisting Israel signaled just how deep the fissure runs between Lebanon’s two political blocs despite their joining forces in a government of “national interest.”“To our brothers in Hezbollah I say: Withdrawing from Syria today is better than withdrawing tomorrow,” former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said during a ceremony in BIEL.“What kind of path are you walking? Return to Lebanon, to your villages in order to save young Lebanese from falling into the fire and horror [in Syria] and return to contribute to building their country,” he added.
Standing in front of hundreds of March 14 coalition supporters and officials, Siniora addressed Hezbollah and said: “You should return to your partners in the nation because you need them and they need you now more than any other time.” Otherwise, Hezbollah and Lebanon would be burdened with the loss, he added. Prior to Siniora’s speech on behalf of the Future Movement, the ceremony presented photographs of the demonstrations of March 14, 2005 that led to the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from Lebanon, signaling the end of Syria’s tutelage over the country. Attendees waved Lebanese flags and images of the movement’s leaders and politicians who were assassinated in the intervening years were repeatedly shown on screen. The anniversary is the first to be held since the start of trials at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is tasked with prosecuting those responsible for the Feb 14, 2005 attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 other victims. The assassination triggered the massive and founding demonstration of the March 14 coalition one month later.
Siniora, the head of the Future bloc, also said the people of south Lebanon who have sacrificed much to resist Israeli occupation should not be dragged into battles between the Syrian regime and its people.
“We will not accept the control of arms, the arms of the militias and strife, as well as all military and security action on Lebanese soil and outside of Lebanon, which are directed by foreign [parties],” Siniora said.
The Future lawmaker said March 14 was committed to the decisions of the National Dialogue, the Baabda Declaration, the policy of disassociation as well as the right of the state to defend itself against Israeli aggression.
“We will never abandon the right of the state to face and confront the Israeli enemy with all legitimate means and Lebanon’s right to sovereignty on its territory,” he said.
Speakers at Friday’s ceremony also included Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.
Geagea called on the March 14 coalition to nominate and unify behind a presidential candidate from the movement.
“The success of any individual from March 14 to assume the presidency is a victory for every one of us, and March 14’s failures in achieving this is, in turn, is a failure for every one of us,” he told the audience in a televised address. Lebanon’s presidential election is due this spring. Geagea is widely assumed to be eyeing the post.
Report: Syrian rebels offer to sell
Golan to Israel in return for military aid
Ynetnews/Published: 3.15.14/According to Al-Arab newspaper, Syrian opposition willing to give Israel the Golan Heights. In return, Israel will use its air defense to enforce a no-fly zone over southern Syria.
As the civil war in Syria marks the end of its third year on Saturday, bizarre reports surface in the Arab media. In a report in Al-Arab newspaper, quoted by Iranian news agency Fars on Saturday, a member of the Syrian opposition coalition is quoted as saying the rebels were willing to sell the Golan Heights to Israel in return for military aid against President Bashar Assad's army. "Why shouldn’t we be able to sell the Golan Heights because it is better than losing Syria and Golan at once," Kamal Al-Labvani told the Arab newspaper, according to Fars. The opposition wants to use Israel's air defense systems, including American-made surface-to-air Patriot missiles, to enforce a no-fly zone over southern parts of Syria in order to prevent Assad's air force of bombarding rebel strongholds.
Iran: Palestinian firepower is 1000 times stronger than before
Published: 03.15.14/Ynetnews/Iranian defense minister warns Palestinian terror groups in Gaza have yet to display their actual missile capabilities. Palestinian terror organizations in Gaza have yet to display their actual missile capabilities, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan told the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars on Saturday. "The resistance forces have fired over 150 missiles against the occupied territories in the last four days and after the assassination of a number of resistance commanders by the Zionist regime in Gaza and the West Bank," Dehqan said. He warned that "the operational power of the Resistance against the Zionist regime is a thousand times more than what it was before."Palestinian terror organizations in the Gaza Strip, led by Islamic Jihad, have fired a barrage of rockets at Israel on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday following the death of three Islamic Jihad members in an Israel Air Force strike. The army killed the three terrorists on Tuesday after they were firing mortar shells at IDF troops on the ground. On Wednesday alone, more than 60 rockets have reached communities in southern Israel near the Gaza border. The army attacked dozens of terror targets in response, leading Islamic Jihad to announce on an Egyptian-mediated truce with Israel based on the ceasefire mediated at the end of the November 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense. Israel has denied reaching such a truce with Islamic Jihad, and announced that "calm will be met with calm.
After three calamitous years; whither Syria?
As the Syrian war rages into its fourth year and the horizon of a political settlement is nowhere to be seen, the prospect of a protracted and grinding conflict lasting for years and devouring a whole generation of Syrians seems to be now the stark reality of that tormented lonely country. The convulsions in Syria today defy the categories usually applied in political analysis or strategic assessment; its Hobbesian unraveling does not lend itself to rational outcomes. Three years of horrors and wanton violence have plunged Syria into what the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes called a State of Nature, leading to a "war of all against all".
Three years after the initial enthusiasm that swept Syrian towns and cities, where peaceful demonstrators, discovered and heard for the first time in decades their true voices shouting “freedom”, a dark, foreboding despair has descended on the scorched land.
The Time of the Assassins
Like many analysts who care a lot about Syria, I have written my share of analysis of the conflict, the warring parties, and the regional and international contexts. And like many of them I had my hits and my misses. Recently however, I find myself eulogizing Syria more than analyzing its constantly shifting political and security shades. And since I know that it is the time of the assassins in Syria, I also feel that it is the time of writing my own Book of Lamentations, mourning what was enchanting about Syria; the smiling faces, the sights, colors, smells, the prose and the poetry I encountered on my first visits to Syria as a teenager; and the promise of the future I will not see.
I still remember vividly how I tried to absorb Damascus (one of the almost holy trinity of cities for my generation of Arabs, along with Cairo and Baghdad) on my first trip, while searching frantically for a copy of “Sadness in the Moonlight” a collection of poetry by Mohammed al-Maghout, a Syrian poet and playwright.
The Modern day Huns
After three years of slaughter, how is it possible to analyze the killing of 10,000 Syrian children, out of 150,000 dead? At least 1.2 million children have fled Syria to neighboring countries. The war has left a “shattered health system resulting in brutal medical practices that have left millions of children suffering," according to a Save the Children report. Thousands of children died because they had no access to treatment of preventable diseases such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension and cancer. There are credible reports of the return of the dreaded polio, a crippling various that was successfully eradicated in Syria years ago. ort about the agony of Syria’s children and watching their empty, sad eyes I could not but remember the wrenching conversation about evil and the existence of God between Ivan and Alyosha the two Karamazov brothers in the chapter titled “Rebellion” in Dostoevsky’s great novel “The Brothers Karamazov.” Ivan, the radical atheist after recounting to the Christ-like Alyosha harrowing stories of the torture and gratuitous killing of children, then concludes that he cannot accept a supposedly loving God that would allow such suffering. He tells Alyosha “Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It’s beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony. Why should they, too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of the future?” It is almost a year since the United Nations has stopped compiling the death toll in Syria, citing the dangerous conditions on the ground. Only Syrians nowadays keep their wary eyes on the reaper. How can one examine and comprehend the uprooting and expulsion of more than 9 million people, rendering them displaced citizens inside Syria, or unwanted refugees seeking shelters in miserable tent cities, dying of cold and malnutrition in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. How is it possible to fathom the immense crime of destroying the civilizational and cultural legacy of one of the few countries in the world that contains some of the best treasures and monuments created over the centuries by the Roman, Byzantine, Christian and Muslim civilizations? Who will rebuild Syria’s magnificent old Churches and Mosques? Not to mention the ancient cities of Homs and Hama. Who will hold accountable those new modern day Huns, be they those serving the Assad regime, or those killers belonging to the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who wrap themselves with the cloak of political Islam and who ransacked and partially destroyed the Umayyad Mosque, and the old Souks and Saladin’s Citadel in Aleppo, the mother of Syrian cities? How is it possible for warring Muslims to bomb the graceful minarets and domes of that jewel of a Mosque named Khalid ibn al-Walid in Homs? Who will punish those Islamist marauders of al-Nusra who desecrated the churches and monasteries of Maalula and Saidnaya two famed towns where Aramaic, the language of Jesus is still spoken? The henchmen of al-Nusra took 13 nuns as hostages and released them after months of captivity for a ransom. Even the formidable Krak des Chevaliers, the greatest castle ever build during the Crusades era, did not escape bombing by the Syrian air force and artillery.
Famine in the Land of Plenty
A century after a massive famine swept the Eastern Mediterranean as a result of blockade and sinister machinations by both the European Allies and the Turkish army battling each other in the Levant during the First World War, killing hundreds of thousands of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians and leaving in its wake destitute and broken societies, man-made starvation has struck Syria once again. But this time it was not caused by competing foreign armies, but by a predatory Syrian regime. For the first time in a hundred years Syrians, mostly civilians are dying of starvation, malnutrition, cold and diseases as a result of a deliberate policy by the Syrian regime of “using starvation as weapon of war” according to a report by the human rights group Amnesty International. The report documents the death of nearly 200 people in the besieged Yarmouk camp in the Damascus area because of “rampant malnutrition” and starvation. Three years of slow death, of mourning and lamentations. Three years of empty Western threats to the regime, and lamentable promises to the ‘moderate’ opposition, of a red line to Assad drawn by a reluctant American president, who watched passively the small time boss of Damascus turn his red line into another green light to devastate his people.
To escape that fate, many were forced to exist on a diet of weeds, cactus and dandelion leaves. Philip Luther a representative of Amnesty said “the harrowing accounts of families having to resort to eating cats and dogs, and civilians attacked by snipers as they forage for food, have become all too familiar details of the horror story that has materialized in Yarmouk.”
While the scale of the deliberate starvation caused by the Assad regime cannot be compared with the famine of WWI, yet the witness accounts of the devastating effects of famine in Damascus circa 1916 and hunger in today’s Damascus are eerily similar; the bloated bellies and the emaciated bodies are identical if one hundred years apart. Then people perished because of mortal diseases including typhus and malaria, today’s mortal diseases are numerous. In April 1917, the American council in Damascus reported that “starvation and famine [are] everywhere; the men either in military service or in hiding, and the women and children reduced to beggary.”
The Syrian Tamerlane
Those spared by diseases, were killed, or being killed by the thousands by conventional and chemical weapons. In recent months thousands were perished in besieged areas in Aleppo, Homs and the outskirts of Damascus by the crude but devastating barrel bombs. Laying siege and starving cities is as old as the history of conventional warfare and invasions. In medieval times invading armies would use catapults to throw projectiles and the remains of dead animals to terrorize the besieged and spread mortal diseases such as the plague. Today, Bashar al-Assad is using a primitive weapon by current military standards; the barrel bombs thrown from Russian made helicopters against civilian targets. The famed Aleppo has been singled out as the city enduring the brunt of the regime’s terror. The success of Assad’s campaign of pulverizing Aleppo brings to the fore the success of Tamerlane, the last savage conqueror who visited similar destruction on Aleppo when he sacked the city 600 years ago.Today, Syria as I and the Syrians knew it is no more. The country is unraveling at the seams. The regime began a diabolical scheme of bloody sectarian cleansing of Sunni areas, close to the Alawite heartland and later some radical Islamist matched his brutality with similar cleansing of Alawite and Christian areas.
The horrendous physical destruction, mostly done by the regime’s conventional army, has been matched by the devastation of communal relations. Rebuilding bridges and other structures requires money and technical means, however, restoring alienated souls requires decades of toil and efforts and cannot be empirically measured, nor is assured.
Three years of slow death, of mourning and lamentations. Three years of empty Western threats to the regime, and lamentable promises to the ‘moderate’ opposition, of a red line to Assad drawn by a reluctant American president, who watched passively the small time boss of Damascus turn his red line into another green light to devastate his people. The peaceful uprising was forced by the brutality of the regime to become militarized.
Not only were the democratic voices suffocated by the Assad regime early on, what is left of a modern and moderate movement for change is threatened of being hijacked by Islamists driven by visions and illusions that are totally alien to the majority of Syrians. The tragic truth is that the rising jihadists are toxic, and the non-Islamist leaders and spokespersons are pathetic.
The despair I feel when I think of Syria leads me at times to raise my fist in the air with otherworldly rage. Of thee Syria I write lamentations, and remember you as a love lost. Syria is dying slowly alone, and the world continues to wring its hands, stoically, in pain and in sorrow but unwilling to stop the tragedy; Syria is falling into the abyss and dragging with it Lebanon and maybe the whole neighborhood.
All the while the Syrian Tamerlane circa 2014 is brazenly planning to secure his throne for life, satisfied that he is the sole owner of the vast desolation he has created.
What do you want, Mr. President?
Eyad Abu Shakra?Al Arabiya
There are only a few days until U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to the Middle East.
Obama’s foreign trips always mark significant and exceptional events. Even if the president acts naïve, it is the destiny of the .U.S, as a global superpower, to act as a true global superpower, whether it likes it or not. It is the U.S.’s destiny to stay in the kitchen and stand up to the heat. The U.S. cannot panic and abandon what it has always considered its “spheres of influence,” especially considering that it recently it went to war in order to protect its interests in them. Of course, this is the U.S.’s perspective, not my personal one.
In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg earlier this month, President Obama revealed some interesting aspects of his Middle East policies which he bases on several assumptions. First is that “Iran is much weaker now than it was a year ago, two years ago, three years ago.” Second, Obama told Goldberg that Iran “is a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.” Third, the president said, the US’s partners in the region have “got to respond and adapt to change.”
nding to a question about why Sunnis are nervous about him, Obama answered: “I think that there are shifts that are taking place in the region that have caught a lot of them off guard. I think change is always scary. I think there was a comfort with a United States that was comfortable with an existing order and the existing alignments, and was an implacable foe of Iran, even if most of that was rhetorical and didn’t actually translate into stopping the nuclear program.”
As to whether he believes Sunni or Shi’ite extremism is more dangerous, Obama said: “I’m not big on extremism generally . . . What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits . . . they’re not North Korea.”
The two key words in the interview are “changes” and “partners.” Although it is clear what he means by “change,” the word “partners” needs to be defined. Other than Israel, who are the “partners” Obama referred to?
Iran's nuclear deal
If the entire issue with Iran is its nuclear weapons, then the answer to the question about the identity of those “partners” will be very limited, and will exclude a host of other issues that worry the Sunni street in the countries that are presumably the U.S.’s “partners.” The reason for this is that Iran is currently executing former Iranian leader Khomeini’s project, which is based on exporting the revolution by fighting its real wars with traditional, rather than nuclear, weapons.
So far, Tehran has turned four Arab countries—Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen—into either failed states or de facto colonies. In coordination with certain lobbies in Washington, Iran is also actively manipulating the fates of Bahrain and Egypt, having disrupted the unity of the Palestinians. It managed to do all this without using nuclear weapons.
Taken alone, Iran’s nuclear program is a source of anxiety to only one regional player: Israel. Therefore, reducing Iran’s regional threat, given the aspirations of its current administration, to the nuclear issue is meant to satisfy solely the Israelis, while dismissing the upheavals, massacres and other ordeals is just a part of what the U.S. president calls “change” threatens the very meaning of “partnership.”
Reducing the big picture to one detail reminds us of another recent worrisome episode: the way in which Washington dealt with the Bashar Al-Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria.
At the outset, the U.S. administration threatened the Assad regime with dire consequences if it continued the systematic and bloody crackdown on civilians it had led since the outbreak of the popular uprising nearly three years ago. However, Washington’s threats went down the drain and Obama’s “red lines” were ridiculed and trampled on as the regime continued massacring civilians with barrel bombs, not to mention the sectarian displacement it also created. This is also now evidenced by the Syrian government’s preparations for the re-election of the “president leader.” These North Korean-style elections have already been resolved in favor of Assad, as shown in the new election law passed recently. The oft-repeated remark by Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry that “Assad has no place in the future of Syria” has evaporated as the atrocities continued. Later on, Moscow itself put an end to the lie that a “political settlement is the only solution to the Syrian crisis” after the Geneva II scandal. It has become clear that the putative “political settlement” was just an anesthetic used to gain time until Iranian and Russian military support units achieve a strategic change on the battlefield in the absence of any tangible, advanced military aid to the opposition from the West.
Last but not least, all of the sugar-coated promises made to the Syrian people and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have been broken, despite the fact that the regional parties that are truly supporting terrorist organizations have been exposed.
Last but not least, all of the sugar-coated promises made to the Syrian people and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have been broken, despite the fact that the regional parties that are truly supporting terrorist organizations have been exposed. The international community has always used these groups’ violations as a pretext to refrain from arming the FSA and keep doing nothing.
Washington has ignored all the incidents on Syria’s tragic scene since the Assad regime agreed to turn over its chemical stockpile, which is something it was not supposed to have had in the first place, let alone use them against its own people. At the time, Washington reduced the dimensions of the Syrian crisis into the issue of chemical weapons, and still the Syrian government is thought to only have surrendered part of its stockpile. By doing so, the U.S. has let the regime and its shabiha (thugs) continue their massacres, which have left between 300,000 and 400,000 dead and displaced 10 million more.
Why did this happen? Whose interests did it serve? It happened because Israel—the U.S.’s key regional partner—feared chemical weapons might fall into the hands of unruly elements and factions other than the Syrian regime, whose intentions it is certain of. And thus, with the elimination of this danger, the Syrian ordeal was relegated to oblivion. The region today is very much aware of what is going on both within its borders and beyond. Thus Washington should stop exporting its delusions. In light of all this, there is no longer anything that will ever surprise or catch the peoples of the region off guard.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 14, 2014.
Canada Marks Third Anniversary of Syrian Crisis
March 14, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, today made the following comments ahead of the third anniversary of the ongoing crisis in Syria. “It is three tragic years since the conflict in Syria began, with the Assad regime responding to peaceful demonstrations with obscene and brutal repression,” said Baird. “The situation has since deteriorated into a major humanitarian catastrophe with alarming social, economic and political consequences throughout the region. Canada maintains that only a political solution will lead to the peace, security and freedom the Syrian people have demanded.” “Canada is appalled by the Assad regime’s blatant disregard of international humanitarian law, including its wilful denial of assistance to besieged populations and the deliberate targeting of humanitarian workers,” said Minister Paradis. “As unacceptable as these acts are, they will not deter our efforts to get basic, life-saving assistance to those in need. Canada will continue to support those displaced by this conflict, as well as supporting the countries across the region who have taken in huge numbers of refugees.” “The Syrian people must believe that they have a place in a new, free, democratic and pluralistic Syria,” said Baird and Minister Paradis. “Canada will continue to work with our allies to ensure that all Syrians have a better, brighter future.”
Backgrounder - Canada’s Assistance in Syrian Crisis
Canada has committed more than $640 million in humanitarian, development and security assistance in response to the crisis in Syria. This includes $353.5 million in humanitarian assistance donated through United Nations agencies, the International Organization for Migration, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and non-governmental organizations. Canada’s funding provides food, shelter, clean water and sanitation, health care, education and protection for the most vulnerable. The tremendous impact of the conflict on children calls for immediate action to mitigate the worst consequences of war on a generation of children. Canada is deeply committed to supporting children affected by the conflict. In January, Prime Minister Stephen Harper committed $50 million to UNICEF’s No Lost Generation strategy to protect the futures of these children.
Canada has also committed $210.6 million to support development projects in the region—specifically those related to health, education and the delivery of basic services—that will strengthen government services and infrastructure stressed by the influx of Syrian refugees and to address Jordan’s development challenges.
Further, Canada has committed $67.6 million in security-related assistance to address the impact of the Syrian crisis, including $46.5 million for Jordan. These funds will help mitigate the threat of chemical weapons and other weapons and materials of mass destruction, assist Jordanian security forces in managing the non-humanitarian aspects of the influx of Syrian refugees and contribute to Jordan’s counter-terrorism capacity. This also includes $4.1 million in stabilization assistance in areas including civil administration, accountability, independent media and secure communications to Syrian activists and civil society members.
Canada Shares UN Special Rapporteur’s Concerns on Iran
March 14, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement regarding the report by Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (see March 2014 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran). “Canada is dismayed by the long list of human rights concerns noted in the report, including arbitrary detentions, torture and mistreatment of detainees, persecution of ethnic minorities, lack of judicial independence and the execution of an estimated 1,539 people since 2011. “The persistent persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran is deeply disturbing. Christians also continue to experience difficulties, including, by disturbing report, a court sentencing Christians to lashes for drinking wine during communion. “While Iran’s leaders present a moderate façade to the world, travelling internationally and hosting foreign trade delegations, the Iranian government continues to systematically violate the human rights of its own people.
“Canada continues to call on Iran to undertake real, concrete and lasting reforms. The people of Iran deserve to have their rights respected by their government and to be allowed to live in freedom and prosperity.”
A backgrounder follows.
The Bid to Dismantle the GCC: Those Who Benefit and Those Who Are Targeted
By: Raghida Dergham
It is Iran and Israel , and also Turkey , which stand to benefit primarily from the unraveling of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the region. Saudi Arabia is at the top of the list of the targeted countries as a result of any unraveling of the security, economic, and political bloc that is the GCC, being the country with the biggest weight in that grouping. Saudi policy on Egypt , which is backed by the UAE, raised alarm bells in regional and international capitals opposed to any strong Arab role in the regional balance of power. This strategically important policy has so far been successful, while Gulf policy on Syria has bordered on failure, and is in drastic need for a full revision, especially in light of Damascus ’s decision to disregard the transitional political process in Syria by moving to hold presidential elections this summer. To be sure, Syria and Iraq , two fundamental Arab countries at the heart of the regional balance of power, are on Iran ’s end of the weighing scale, so to speak.
GCC members have fallen out and scattered over the different priorities of each Gulf nation, especially those of Qatar and Oman . This first requires an explicit recognition of the different orientations of each of the six member states. Second, it needs careful thinking about the meaning and implications of establishing an alternative regional security order. Third, there must be an accurate probing of the U.S. position on the regional balance of power, in light of the UAE-backed Saudi-Egyptian collaboration, which is feared and resisted by Israel . Fourth, it must be determined whether Washington favors dismantling the GCC and sees this as one way to appease Iran .
President Barack Obama’s visit to Riyadh requires a radical sorting of these questions and coherent strategic answers at all levels and concerning all issues. Monitoring American-Russian relations in light of the developments in Ukraine is of course also important. But firmness and assertion in the Ukrainian issue must not be conflated with the hope of seeing this be reflected on American-Russian relations in the Syrian, Iranian, Israeli, Gulf, or other dimensions.
What is happening in Ukraine has to do with the NATO-Russia equation. Russian President Vladimir Putin was lured to becoming implicated in measures that are costly for him and Russia , no matter how much it seems to him that he is defying and defeating the West, and thwarting its plans. Putin has set a trap for himself, or fell into the trap that was set for him.
The measures to annex Crimea satisfied unbridled Russian nationalism, but this annexation will give the rest of Ukraine to NATO on a golden platter, fulfilling the demands of the Ukrainian uprising against Russia .
As one Western diplomat summed it up: The first prize is Kiev , not the Crimea . Moscow ’s monopoly of Crimea means losing Kiev . Furthermore, Moscow ’s annexation of the Crimea reinforces the argument of the Baltic countries wishing to join NATO, that the enemy is Russia and that they need protection through the NATO umbrella. In other words, what increased the likelihood or inevitability of Ukraine joining NATO is precisely the Ukrainian crisis and the Russian measures towards it, through the re-annexation of the Crimea, which Khrushchev had “donated” to Ukraine in the last century.
The West does not assign extraordinary importance to the Crimea . From the outset the majority of NATO countries wanted Ukraine to join the alliance. Putin behaved with the irrational arbitrariness of nationalism when he jumped into the trap of annexing the Crimea, forgetting that the peninsula is only a small part rather than the basis of Western strategy on Ukraine .
The re-annexation of the Crimea effectively signals the beginning of a new chapter for the countries wishing to accede to NATO like Estonia and Latvia . It is also signals the start of a chapter of partition and redrawing borders in Central Asian countries, starting with Kazakhstan and others. Unity and territorial integrity is a principle that Moscow has long touted, but now, it is practically tearing it with its own hands, either because it was lured into the trap or because it fell into the trap of irrational nationalism.
The Western powers have given enough rope to Putin to hang himself with. At the United Nations, all that the Western powers have been doing is to reaffirm general principles, including territorial integrity, while working on driving a wedge between Russia and China under this principle. Even if the Western powers fail to separate China from Russia , they have set for themselves a clear priority, namely, deepening the hole that Russia has dug for itself.
Even Germany has found it difficult to continue defending Russia in isolation from the rest of EU nations on several issues related to the Russian position. This is sweet music to the ears of some European powers.
Yet all this does not mean at all that the Western countries are prepared for a direct confrontation with Russia using any means other than sanctions and isolation, nor do they need to since they have already obtained the prize of having Kiev in NATO.
Vladimir Putin has decided to cut his losses and seek grand bargains and accords with the Western powers – though this is unlikely to pan out. Instead, he has decided to consolidate his “victories” elsewhere, including Syria .
The Western powers do not care about Russia ’s victories in Syria . The Syrian arena too is a major quagmire for Russia , no matter how much Moscow believes that it is winning the grand prize in that part of the Middle East .
Morally speaking, the Western powers, especially the United States , are bankrupt in how they have dealt with Syria , perhaps as much as Russia and China are. Practically speaking, Syria is a quagmire for Russia and its allies in the axis, regardless of their immediate military victories. From the U.S. point of view, winning over a torn state, which is on the brink of fragmentation, whose territory has been overrun by the war on terrorism and a nihilist ideology, whose leadership is rejected by half of the people, whose heritage is being destroyed, and whose people are being displaced, is not a real win or victory after all.
Instead, a major power named Russia is implicated in a civil war in Syria . This is in the interests of the West. To be sure, Washington is not disturbed by the Russian arrogance in Syria , as long as this major power is being drawn to the quagmire of civil war there, while Russia styles itself as the front and the leader of the war on terrorism.
All this does not absolve the Americans or the Russians of their moral failures in Syria , which has become a testament to the moral decline of the two leaderships, in the name of defending their respective national interests.
Joint UN-Arab envoy in Syria Lakhdar Brahimi had wagered on American-Russian accord over Syria , but he has since lost the bet. The divide between Russia and the U.S. is now too great. Washington will not engage and will continue to evade and distance itself from Syria for the time being. For its part, Russia will remain an ally of the regime in Damascus whatever happens.
The strategy of the regime in Damascus in its first tack is based on upending the Geneva 1 communiqué requiring the establishment of a transitional governing body in Syria , by insisting on reducing the Syrian issue to being one of fighting terrorism. As a result, the Geneva talks ground to a halt because of that insistence and the refusal of the attempts to adapt to it, with Brahimi proposing parallel talks to address the terrorism issue, alongside the primary purpose of the Geneva talks, namely the implementation of the Geneva 1 communiqué and establishing a transitional governing body.
The second tack of the regime’s strategy is to thwart the establishment of a transitional government, which is now being implemented by moving to hold presidential elections in Syria . The fact of the matter is that the UN Security Council will not lift a finger to halt the presidential elections, which Russia wants as much as the regime in Syria wants. Nor will Washington lift a finger.
This will compel Saudi to formulate a clear position on the developments in Syria , on the eve of President Obama’s visit to Riyadh . According to sources, Brahimi plans to visit Tehran on Saturday, perhaps in an attempt to seek Iran ’s assistance in resolving the electoral problem in Syria , and perhaps also to mend relations between Tehran and the UN after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rescinded his invitation to Iran to attend the Geneva 2 talks. Riyadh can either step up its actual support for the Syrian opposition on the field and militarily, or reconsider its stated positions calling for toppling the Syrian regime, instead accepting to coexist with it in power through elections. This is what Washington wants to discuss candidly with Riyadh during Obama’s visit.
The visit will not be exclusively focused on the Syrian issue. Both sides want the visit to renew the exceptional and historic relationship, no matter what. In effect, the bilateral relationship carries in its folds many issues like Iran , Egypt , Palestine , and Iraq , and not just Syria . Regarding Palestine , there is a consensus on an Arab role – particularly a Saudi role – in the bid to reach a Palestinian-Israeli agreement to achieve the two-state solution.
Egypt is not the subject of American-Saudi accord, particularly in the context of the strategic Saudi-Egyptian relationship and its implications for the regional balance of power. Indeed, Washington is accommodating Tel Aviv’s desire to resist the emergence of a sizeable Arab say in the regional balance of power.
Inadvertently or intentionally, Qatar ’s positions meet with the American-Israeli desire to head off a Saudi-Egyptian alliance, whose main purpose would be to restore the Arab weight in the regional balance of power. The Muslim Brotherhood is nothing but a secondary detail in this equation.
The recent crisis in the Saudi-Qatari relations also has an important dimension in the context of the GCC, in terms of its survival or unraveling. This in turn is part of the equation of the balance of power and the security arrangement in the region.
Qatar has certainly not abandoned its traditionally good relationship with Iran , despite their divergence over the Syrian issue. Qatar , like Oman , has been keen to meet Iran ’s basic demand calling for a new regional security arrangement that would bring together the GCC, Iran , and Iraq . This demand, practically and realistically, requires the dismantling of the GCC.
Oman has shown an Iranian orientation a while back, and it opposes the Saudi demand to establish a “union” among the six GCC countries: Saudi Arabia ; UAE; Kuwait ; Qatar ; Oman , and Bahrain . The visit by Iranian President Hassan Rohani to Muscat this week has tightened the bonds between the two countries that control both sides of the Strait of Hormuz , which is crossed by 40 percent of the oil transported by sea to the world. Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi was keen on highlighting Oman ’s role in the U.S.-Iranian rapprochement secretly and publicly since the days of President Bill Clinton. Oman ’s position, for example on Syria , is identical to that of Iran , Russia , and the regime in Damascus , which holds that the solution there is to “drive out foreign terrorists from Syria .”
The GCC, then, is in a predicament and a state of division, and is facing the shadow of disintegration, which is desired by Iran, Israel, and perhaps also the U.S. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s attacks on Saudi Arabia are but a part of the strategy to dismantle the GCC, to pave the way for the Iranian vision for a new security arrangement and alternative policy on Syria.
*Translated from Arabic by Karim Traboulsi
Not quiet on the Northern Front
by Jonathan Spyer and Benjamin Weinthal
New York Daily News/March 11, 2014
JERUSALEM — The disintegration of the Syrian state into warring enclaves is bringing with it new challenges and threats for Israel. Alarm bells have now been sounded on Israel's shared northern border with Syria.
"For the moment, they [Jihadis] are not fighting us, but we know their ideology. . . . It could be that, in the coming months, we could find ourselves dragged into confrontation with them," said a top-level Israel Defense Forces officer. In addition to the Jihadi threat, the Iran-sponsored terrorist entity Hezbollah remains Israel's most potent security threat in the north. Just last month, Israel reportedly struck a Syrian weapons convoy on its way to Hezbollah.
Evidence is now beginning to emerge of the methods the Jewish state is adopting to meet this new reality.
Since mid-2012, Syria has been effectively divided into three enclaves. The first of these is the area controlled by the Bashar Assad regime, supported by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. The second is an area under the rule of a confusing mass of rebel forces, mainly consisting of Sunni Islamist militias. The third, in the far north-east, is an area controlled by Syria's Kurds.
Israel's new challenge derives from the second of these enclaves. Regarding the first and the third, there is no confusion. Assad is an enemy, and his Iranian backers constitute the most dangerous alliance currently threatening the Jewish state. In February, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited an Israeli field hospital treating wounded Syrians, placing the blame squarely on the Mullah Regime: "All the children wounded, to say nothing of those killed, were harmed as a result of Iran arming, financing, and training the Assad regime in the mass slaughter it is perpetrating."
The Kurds in the north, meanwhile, are generally favorably inclined towards Israel and the feeling is mutual. This, however, has little practical import.
The new security threat derives from the rebel-controlled zones, and in particular those in southern Syria, close to the border with Israel. Three powerful, Al-Qaeda-linked Salafi militias have emerged to a prominent position in the rebellion. Two of them, Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) openly proclaim themselves to be franchises of the Al-Qaeda network. The third, Ahrar al-Sham, is of similar Salafi jihadi outlook, but with less of a clear connection with core Al-Qaeda leadership.
Major General Aviv Kochavi, head of IDF Military Intelligence, recently estimated that up to 30,000 salafi jihadis were now fighting in Syria.
The main strength of the Al-Qaeda-linked and Salafi militias is in the north and east of Syria, far from the border with Israel. ISIS controls a large swath of eastern Syria and western Iraq. Nusra holds an area of the north.
The possession by Al-Qaeda-linked groups of a de facto sovereign area in Syria is itself a matter of deep concern for Israel and the west. It enables the jihadis to train and organize in the Levant in a way which has never been possible before.
A recently apprehended jihadi cell in the West Bank was preparing to leave for northern Syria to undergo training before striking at Israeli and U.S. targets.
The Israeli-Syrian border [photo: IDF]
But the real nightmare scenario from Israel's point of view would be if the jihadis managed to take control of all or part of Syria's border with Israel, from where they could begin to carry out operations against Israelis.
Assad has ceded control of most of the border area of southern Syria facing the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967. The border has been largely quiet for nearly 40 years.
Assad's main problem in fighting his war is a lack of manpower. He prefers, therefore, only to hold those areas which are absolutely necessary, ceding less vital stretches of territory.
ISIS has not yet reached southern Syria. Jabhat al Nusra is there, however, controlling an area of Deraa province. Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has appointed al Nusra as his chief fighting force in Syria. According to an Israeli defense expert, al-Zawahri's jihadist ideology seeks to first launch attacks against Israel and then move onto the U.S. In sharp contrast, Osama Bin Laden's first target was the U.S.
Israel is not waiting for the jihadis to begin attacking it. Rather, according to recent reports, the Jewish state has established channels of communication with currently dominant non-jihadi rebel elements in the south.
The care afforded wounded Syrians in Israeli hospitals has been widely reported. This assistance appears to form only part of a wider project, in which Israel is quietly establishing lines of communication with non-Al-Qaeda rebels along the border, with the intention that they should form a de facto barrier to any attempt by the jihadis to create a presence there for the purpose of attacking Israel. It is obviously in the interests of non-Al-Qaeda rebels to prevent this, since the last thing they need is for the jihadis to begin their own private war against the Jews behind their backs — with all the potential for inevitable Israeli retaliation that this would bring. The links and communication with rebel elements in the south are unlikely to lead to a broader Israeli involvement there.
Memories of the Lebanese quagmire, and the awareness that any open Israeli embrace of this or that group of rebels would serve to instantly discredit them are likely to keep the Israeli footprint in southern Syria exceedingly light. But what can be said with confidence is that Israel is quietly and carefully establishing and managing the relationships necessary to keep a close eye on developments, and to create a secure buffer zone against the jihadi threat.
Russia claims it intercepted a US
drone over Crimea by cyber technology
DEBKAfile Special Report March 15, 2014/Russia resorted to military action against an American target Friday, March 14, much sooner in their dispute on Ukraine than could have been expected, when a Russian cyber warfare unit intercepted and downed a US military drone over the Crimea.
"The drone was flying at about 4,000 meters (12,000 feet) [over the Crimean Peninsula] and was virtually invisible from the ground. It was possible to break the link with US operators with complex radio-electronic technology,” said the Russian state arms and technology group Rostec Friday, March 14. The drone fell “almost intact" into the hands of "self-defense forces.”
No part of this report is confirmed by the US or any independent source.
It is not clear whether the Russians broke an ordinary radio link or a satellite link from the US operators to the drone. If the latter, the technology would have been similar to that used by Iran in December, 2011 to down the top-secret US RAQ-170 Sentinel UAV and recover it intact – a feat usually credited by Western intelligence experts to Chinese cyber experts.
Rostec said on its website that “according to its identification number, UAV MQ-5B belonged to the 66th America Reconnaissance Brigade based in Bavaria.”
Earlier Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ended six hours of talks sharply at odds on the Crimean referendum, which takes place Sunday March 16, with the foregone conclusion of annexation to Russia. The US and West judge the referendum illegal and a violation of Ukrainian territory integrity and sovereignty, in defiance of the interim government in Kiev, which they recognize as the legitimate rulers of all Ukraine. The US and EU have threatened to impose sanctions against Russia if the referendum takes place.
The Russian interception of the US MQB Hunter drone – if confirmed – would ramp up the controversy for the first time from a war of words to a military face-off, marking a dangerous turning-point in the Ukraine crisis and inter-power relations.
DEBKAfile’s military sources describe the MQ-5B Hunter as a long endurance, medium altitude, multi-mission, tactical UAV system (UAS). It is optimized to provide Army division and corps commanders with a dedicated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability. It may have been tracking the movements of the Russian Black Sea Fleet whose home base is the Crimean port of Sevastopol.